From lager to saga: hunt is on for great Scottish musical

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YOU'VE heard the song and seen the advert, now you could be about to attend the musical.

Caledonia, which made Number One in the Scottish charts in 1992 when sung by Frankie Miller, reached millions of people when it was used in a television advert for Tennent's lager.

Now the person who created the tune, Dougie Maclean, the Dunblane-based singer-songwriter is turning his hand to musical theatre with the help of his most famous number.

The song is one of a number of Maclean tracks to feature in a musical, Caledonia, co-written by Tober Reilly, on a ten-strong shortlist announced yesterday in a contest to find a new piece of work to mark the Highland Year of Culture in 2007.

A year ago Sir Cameron Mackintosh, the West End impresario, joined the Scottish Executive in launching the Highland Quest, which attracted 140 entries from across the United Kingdom, as well as from Taiwan, Italy, the United States, Canada, Greece, Germany and Ireland. The ten shortlisted entries include comedy, horror, satire and romance, with musical styles from folk to rock 'n' roll.

The list will be cut to five next month, with these being showcased in July.

The winner will be premiered at a new 270-seat studio venue at Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, before being toured in the Highlands.

Caledonia is based on the Highland clearances of 150 years ago, but also covers the continual drift of people from the area today.

Maclean is currently touring in the US, but his wife and manager, Jenny, said: "The idea of a great Scottish musical is terrific and it would be wonderful to be involved."

The Clearances is also the subject of another entry, The Desperate Journey, by David Griffiths, who last year was commissioned to write a song for the G8 summit, and Graham Leadbetter; while Dream Tower Inn, by Bron George Rydell, is centred on a pub on a remote Hebridean island.

Alison Prince, the creator of the Trumpton children's TV show, who now lives in Arran, has written Balloons, a futuristic story about global warming, with John Hollingworth, David Boni and Heather Gough.

An Edinburgh-based team of Suzanne Lofthus, director of Cutting Edge Theatre Productions, and Ian Hammond Brown, have written Fling, a "Scottish Midsummer Night's Dream" set in the Highlands; while Marrying Meg, by Mark Robertson, is a comedy based on faerie tales of the Borders.

Shenachie, by Sally Beamish and Donald Goodbrand Saunders, is based on a storyteller who cast a spell on a Highland glen; and Storm, by Bob Pegg, deals with folklore traditions in a seaboard village.

Whisky Kisses, by Euan Martin, Dave Smith and James Bryce, is about two whisky collectors competing to land the last bottle of a rare malt.

One of the most unusual entries, The Sundowne, by brothers John and Gerry Kielty, is set in a modern-day Edinburgh being terrorised by vampires.

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